The Johnston Lady Panthers basketball team clinched its second straight Division II-North title with a 55-30 win over the Pilgrim Patriots on Tuesday night at Johnston High School on what was an emotional senior night. Three Panther seniors and team captains, Jordan Moretti, Taylor Poland and Lauren Civetti, were honored in a pre-game ceremony before their last regular season home game.
Johnston notched its 17th win of the season against just one loss, while the Lady Pats fall to 3-15 on the year. The Lady Panthers have a combined record of 38-1 the past two seasons in Division II, as they went undefeated in league play last year, capturing the Division II title in the process. Johnston also made it to the Final Four last year at the Ryan Center. Its only loss this year came at the hands of Scituate, but the Panthers have now won 12 straight games. Their only other losses were to Division I schools the past two seasons; Saint Raphael, La Salle and Moses Brown.
The Panthers had a balanced attack against Pilgrim, as they received contributions from multiple players.
“It has been a joint effort all year,” said Johnston head coach Chris Corsinetti. “Our bench is really deep as well as our four and five positions. There have been games where Amelia Moore has taken over and games where Sarah Bandoma came in as a game changer, and Caroline Howe can play down low and score. We have a lot of combinations that we can put in and play. It’s truly been an amazing team effort this year. The last two years, we saw Gabby DiRaimo take over games and score points and take some pressure off Jordan Moretti.”
The Panthers opened up an early, 16-4 lead, as DiRaimo played a big part in building that advantage. She made several nice passes to Moretti and Civetti, which resulted in easy layups. DiRaimo’s steal and lay-in as well as her rebounding also helped pace her team to that lead. She would also go coast-to-coast for a 20-4 lead at the 8:43 mark of the first half. DiRaimo would finish the game with 10 points.
The Pats tried to keep it close with eight first-half points by Giulia Doneda, but they would find themselves down at the half, 31-16.
The second half started with a Moretti steal and lay-in, and the 1,000-point scorer’s 3-pointer made it a 52-28 game. Moretti, who tallied nine points in the contest, also made a nice pass to Poland for a three-point play. Johnston also received scoring contributions from Civetti, Howe and Poland, who netted eight, seven and five points, respectively. The Lady Pats were led by Mackenzie Hough’s 10 points.
“It’s been an amazing run for these kids,” Corsinetti said. “They all come to practice every day and work their butts off. They should all soak this up and enjoy this.”
The three Panther seniors stressed that hard work, and most of all friendship, have been the key to the team’s success this season.
“Everyone on the team stepped up this year,” Moretti said. “We all just work very hard and we all work together as a team.”
“Playing basketball is important to me,” said Civetti. “We are all thankful to have Coach Corsinetti as our coach.”
“I feel that it is important that we are friends first,” said Poland. “We are all family, and the team has gelled together because of that.”
The Lady Panthers will host a playoff game either on Monday or Tuesday of next week as they begin their quest for a second consecutive Division II championship.
“We will never look past anyone, we just take it one game at a time,” Corsinetti said.